When former LeMoyne-Owen College baseball coach Rodney Newman abruptly resigned three-fourths of the way into the season, senior catcher De’Anthony Baker realized that he would have to step up and become not just a better player, but an improved leader on and off the baseball field.
Newman’s exit forced Baker to take on a player-coach role, which he willingly embraced.
His talents on the baseball field during the 2021-2022 season earned him a trip to the 2022 Minority Baseball Prospects HBCU All-Star Game, presented by the Henry Louis Aaron Fund.
The game will take place at Truist Park, the home stadium of the Atlanta Braves. This represents a homecoming of sorts for Baker, who lives in the Atlanta area.
Baker refuses to take responsibility for his success, crediting God for his rise to stardom in the baseball ranks.
Despite the team finishing with a 4-30 record (2-17 record in conference), Baker never let the circumstances affect his play on the field. He understood his demeanor and body language could rub off on his teammates, positively or negatively.
After winning a state championship with Baker Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Baker moved on to nearby Savannah State University.
He decided to transfer to LeMoyne-Owen after a trip to Memphis in 2017.
When COVID-19 forced a cancellation of the 2020-2021 season, Baker was unsure whether to continue playing his senior season. However, his family and relationship with God factored in his decision to return to LOC.
“I prayed a lot to make sure that this was the right decision for me, and my family supported me throughout this difficult time,” Baker said. “Their encouragement for me to continue playing inspired me to set forward on the path that has gotten me to this point.”
For the season, Baker scored 10 runs, produced 10 runs batted in, stole nine bases, and hit a solid .276 at the plate.
Freshmen Johnathon Williams and Avery Willis were players that Baker took under his wing when they arrived on-campus.
Williams was impressed with Baker’s mentality; Baker seemed to never let the circumstances of a game or practice affect his mindset.
“D-BO (a nickname given to Baker by his team) always played hard regardless of the circumstances, and he made sure we were always focused on the task at hand,” Williams said. “Some people started to get discouraged throughout the season because it was not going the way that we planned, but D-Bo’s confidence never wavered.”
Willis, a Memphis product and a pitcher on the team, respected Baker’s approach to the game and the humility that he possessed, despite being a talented player.
“D-Bo’s main focus was about making sure that everyone else got better, and it never was about him,” Willis said. “He made sure that the team didn’t let anything faze us, and he was for sure the leader of our team.”
Baker’s passion for LeMoyne-Owen baseball will extend past this recent season. He will become a full-time assistant baseball coach next season at LOC. The college has not hired a new baseball coach.
For him, the opportunity provides him a chance to give back to a school that has taught him so much.
“I am ecstatic to come back and see how the team grows throughout the offseason, and I think the squad will take steps forward to improve.”